Joseph Millson is keen not to come across as a luvvie, but he can’t help but admit: “I love the character, and I’m not just saying it – I’m having an absolutely brilliant time there.” We’re talking about the charming, chatty actor’s latest role: trauma medic Luc Hemingway in long-running medical soap Holby City.
Viewers first met Luc a few weeks ago. His rooftop confrontation with nurse Eddi Mckee (Sarah-Jane Potts) was quite an introduction – a dramatic yet amusing lead-in for the man who’s continued to ruffle Eddi’s feathers. Are the writers focusing on developing that relationship for now?
“Yes, I think so. It’s a very unlikely pair. It ain’t predictable but it’s funny – and of course there’s a kind of “Oh, for God’s sake, get it together!”. Strangely, [that] feels much more real and I think – if indeed anything ever does happen – it’ll be in a really realistic way, not in a kind of violins and roses way.”
But don’t go asking him for any tantalising hints about what’s in store for Luc: “Some actors on the show are always going up to the storyline people and asking what’s coming. Personally I prefer getting the script and going, ‘Ooh, look at that, I didn’t expect that.’ So I don’t really know what’s coming at all. Although I think Sarah Jane does. I said, ‘Don’t tell me, don’t tell me!’”
The Sarah Jane Adventures
Many will recognise Millson from his role as single dad Alan Jackson in The Sarah Jane Adventures, in which he starred alongside the much-missed Elisabeth Sladen. He remembers his co-star fondly: “She was so unashamedly lost in the story when you did the scenes. She never really apologised for just believing, like a child, in what was happening in front of her. I’ve taken that with me to other jobs – not being embarrassed about it and saying, ‘No, we’re here to play and do make believe, so that’s what I’m going to do.’
“And she was great fun, lots of giggles. But whilst taking it ever so seriously, you know. To her, it couldn’t have been more important if it had been Scorsese directing. It was very, very serious work doing good, entertaining children’s television – and that’s exactly how it should be.”
His role in Campus catered for a different audience entirely. As English professor Matt Beer in Victoria Pile’s comedy, he started out a womanising layabout and ended up… well, a more sensitive layabout. Millson speaks enthusiastically of a rehearsal and improvisation process that enabled the close-knit cast to have more creative input than normal on a TV project.
Sadly, a second series was not to be – “which is very confusing because it was commissioned – it was written, I believe – and then at the 11th hour dropped by Channel 4.
“I’ve got my own theory, I don’t care if I get sued for it – I think it’s because the very wonderful series called Fresh Meat was slated at a similar time, and they probably didn’t want two university comedies. Although I think they would have complemented each other brilliantly.”
Millson isn’t just a familiar face on television – he’s worked extensively in theatre and has branched out into film. Low-budget horror Devil’s Bridge – “it’s not a slash-’em-up horror at all, it’s a little bit more like Deliverance” – is due out on DVD and Blu-ray next year, and the actor plans to work with its producers and director again in the future.
Surely every boy’s dream – probably many grown men’s as well – Millson has also earned his stripes as a double-0 agent. Though Carter probably wouldn’t qualify as the brightest member of that esteemed group – he’s the man who caused mayhem for Daniel Craig’s James Bond in Casino Royale – Millson is proud of generating the first laugh of the film. And he’s relieved his performance didn’t end up on the cutting-room floor.
“I’ve had too many friends say ‘I’m in such and such a huge film’ and you go and see it and say, ‘Sorry mate, I didn’t see you.’ And it’s too embarrassing. So I didn’t tell anyone. And then when I watched it, it actually looked like twice the part I thought it was when I was filming it!” he chuckles.
In April next year he takes a break from Holby General – a ten-week period originally pencilled into the diary to shoot the second series of Campus. He’ll be heading back to Wales (“I’m doing a nice supporting role for a couple of weeks in a film called Crow”) and hopes to squeeze in a return to the theatre.
And what does the future hold at Holby? “I’m contracted for a year and obviously we haven’t talked about more yet, but I certainly wouldn’t turn my nose up at it. I’m very happy, so we’ll see.”
Holby City continues tonight at 8pm on BBC1 and BBC1 HD.
Devil’s Bridge is released on DVD and Blu-ray in March 2012.